On the Yangtze River
[So here we are on the Yangtze River, sitting in our room. There is a definite roll going on but so far I'm OK. We will see. It is dark and about 9 min past midnight our time on Sunday and about the same after noon on Sat your time
( but you will catch up ). I have been delving into the setup here. It's Wifi, but you have to use their computer. So this will mean no pictures for now, and no direct update of the website. I will have to examine that. ]
A quick trip to the harbour, and then we gathered up all our stuff and hauled it down some steep wet concrete stairs ( without hand rails ) to the long gangway across a couple of barges to the MV Emperor, our cruise ship.
We were greeted by a loud and enthusiastic percussion band [ and decorated dragon, Chinese style ], then met our cruise guide, Gracie, and found our state rooms. We quickly discovered our balconies and explored the ship, watching from the sundeck as we pulled out of the harbour and started downstream. Nice boat so we'll be comfortable. [ our room is like a hotel room with bath, closet, desk (where I am now) and a nice private balcony outside hanging over the river. We seem to be making at least 20 knots as the wind is considerable.] [ let me tell you that running a laptop in MS Windows Chinese version is no piece of cake.]
Sunday, 25 September - On the Yangtze River
[It is about 5am here Monday morning on the cruise ship Emperor tied up on the Yangtze River somewhere. Easier sleeping tied up but we had enough alcohol last night to ensure good sleep anyway. ]
Cruising down-river we can see the shoreline markings where the water will rise to in about 4 years.
Whole cities are being moved to higher ground and we can see that in process. In one place a new bridge is being built to replace one that will not tolerate the higher water. The river is full of garbage - it is interesting to note that shoes must be reliably
buoyant because they are the most common identifiable objects in the water. It's damp and chilly, so we're all breaking out our warmer clothes. We just hope it doesn't actuallly rain on any of our excursions.
The visit to the White Emperor City was very interesting, but there was so much racket from several Chinese guides simultaneous use of electronic megaphones that we could hardly hear our guide.
We'll have to read up on those details later. For now it's up a long slope from the river, so some of us went up by ski lift and some walked. Larry and I chose the ski lift since even the steps at the bottom were frightening. Lots of vendors, as usual. Once the water rises it will be an island and a new bridge will attach it to the mainland. We took a very rickety ferry to the landing and
then back to the cruise ship -- an experience in itself. As soon as we got back we headed for the observation deck on the front of the ship to enjoy the passage
through the first gorge - the Qutang Gorge. It was raining and very windy, but just amazing.
[ it was certainly necessary to tie on your hat and put glasses in pocket] to safely see it all but the weather didn't really take much away from the experience ]
We warmed up afterwards with a hall party - everyone got out their stocks of
booze and goodies and we ate and drank, planning to skip dinner;
however, we were informed it was the Captain's formal welcome dinner and we MUST attend. So attend we did! The serving ladies were dolled up in traditional princess's outfits and after dinner we took turns trying on the elaborate
The the hall party resumed until it was time to go to the variety show in the night club, put on by the crew. What a great show! We had stage-side seats, so really enjoyed the singing and dancing - and the games! Dennis competed with 2 men from Hong Kong and Korea to see who could lay the most eggs - he was a close second - and Larry captured it on video.
[ClickPic:Denis getting into egg-laying
Then Naomi and M-E played musical chairs against a couple of Asian guys, with the twist of having to get a named object from the audience, and getting back to the stage. They were the last two in it and M-E won with one of my socks. ( don't tell her I'd been wearing them 2 days ). [ some how I don't remember that game at all....zzz ]
Monday, 26 September - To Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze
A very early breakfast to get out by 7:30 for the Lesser Three Gorges excursion. Once again, some challenging walks along piers, across gang-planks and through hordes of vendors. The first hour or so was on a good-sized excursion boat with a transparent roof. We spent much of the trip on the forward deck from where we could see the caves,
interesting vegetation and a few white goats. The scenery is just amazing and we also saw a "hanging coffin" -- actually in a cave high on the mountain.
Since the water is already up at least 16 meters from original level, many villages have disappeared and some sites are closer to the water. The last part of the trip was in a smaller sampan because it is narrower and shallower.
Now they can use motors, but before the water started to rise the boats were pulled upstream by naked men. Farmers walk from their farms every day to drive the sampans and also to stage little tableaux along the riverside, singing and so on for the benefit of tourists. Our drivers and guides sang to us, so we sang back -- Land of the Silver Birch, My Paddle and so on.
As soon as we got back to the cruise ship we headed for the front observation deck for the trip through the Wu Gorge. We now know not to take hats -- those gorges are windy!
The mountains are steep here and the gorge makes a couple of sharp turns in a "z' shape.
We chose to eat in our room and use up some of the food we've been carrying -- actually welcomed a break from Chinese cuisine, lovely though it has been. Our guide, Michelle, phoned to see if we'd like something sent to our room. She takes such great care of us!
In the late afternoon we gathered once again on the forward observation deck for the Xiling Gorge passage -- again a windy experience.
In the past, this was the most treacherous of the gorges but now, with deeper
wider channels it's OK. That brought us to the Three Gorges Dam, so we went
ashore and visited it. It's really a marvel of engineering! Sadly, the gift shop
failed to produce the hats we were commissioned to acquire for Robin & Candy.
We'll keep watching. Dinner was very late and followed by picture-taking, a
brief entertainment by the crew, and packing for the last leg of our journey.
Tuesday 27 September - Finishing the Yangtze at Yichang and on to Shanghai
[Well we made it down the Yangtze, some 700 km, and now we are being called
on the ship speaker as we are descending the dam. The descent will either
be by a ship elevator, or a 5 stage lock. We saw both this evening and I'm
not sure which will be used. (...5 min later): I see now we are approaching the 5-stage locks - largest in the world - it drops some 75 meters. I sat on the front deck and watched the whole lock passage, through 4 locks...fascinating - but lost some sleep as it took 3 hours, ending at 3:30am.]
We eased into the first lock just after midnight. The water level was 135 M above sea level. It's not a quiet performance since several boats use the same lock ( 9 came out of the upbound) and there are announcements, radios and so forth. Larry stayed on the front observation deck all alone until we were well clear of the last lock [ there were
5 locks all together, but the first 2 are combined as the river hasn't risen to
its final level], but I slept through most of the 3-hour process. I did go out and get the feel of being at the bottom of the first lock and then a bit later to see the open water again but just from our own balcony.
When we docked at Yichang we had a great view of the departure ceremony - fiirst "stick soldiers" ( men and wormen ) carried all the bags ashore, then the people went across the gang plank to the accompaniment of the percussion group and a dancing dragon.
Ship's crew were placed all the way to the steps up to the parking lot [ each one bid us farewell ] . Our local guide for Yichang was Gary, who took us first to a vast
riverside park where local residents go for their morning exercise on equipment that is like an adult play ground,
and also for gentler enjoyment of lawns, trees and water. We listened to musical groups, watched young cadets drilling and children playing.
Then we visited the museum of artifacts, recovered from the areas that have been, or will be flooded by the Three Gorges Dam Project. Our lunch was voted the best Chinese meal so far. On the way to the airport we stopped at a traditional poor farm.
The story was that the lady lived there with her disabled son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren, and that she supplemented her meagre income by opening her home to visitors. When we got off the bus a man in traditional garb came by leading a cow, then stood around for photos. It was all quite staged,
["queue the cow"] but the house likely is like the old mud-built dwellings that have mostly been replaced. It was definitely in the hovel category, and would not be comfortable to live in [ or camp in ]. We did get to see crops, like rice and sqash up close.
We flew to Shanghai, arriving in time to check in and shower before going to a beautiful restaurant with mediocre food. We did sample a local dumpling specialty which was pretty good.